Trip to St Vaast

We have had to make a couple of programme changes which means we have a long weekend trip to St Vaast from Thursday evening 11th June until Sunday afternoon the 14th June.

St Vaast is a super little port with several good restaurants a great Saturday market and a most unusual ‘Supermarket’ that is known across France.

Because it is a late addition cost is only £125.

8th in Le Havre race

Le Havre race report

It seemed like a good move to go up to Cowes to overnight before the 1000 start for the Le Havre race. It also seemed like a good idea to visit the new Royal Ocean Racing Club house in Cowes and have a drink. The food from the Golden Dragon was good and washed down with several bottles of wine we slept well, but perhaps were not at our finest first thing. It was the first of the Fastnet qualifying races and as the course was 135 NM we decided not to push things too hard and just concentrate on finishing.

The forecast was about 20 kts of wind coming from exactly where we wanted to go so the RORC sent us 30miles the other way before the 105 miles back to Le Havre. After a conservative start, with a strong ESE wind plus the ebbing tide we average about 10 kts down to the first mark off Lulworth range before turning south across the Channel. Some of the fleet turned back to the East against the tide but we went with the majority and close to the wind made about 150 degrees on compass or about due south with the tide and lee way.

When the tide turned the apparent wing increased as did the sea state and we beat down towards Cap Barfleur and a potentially nasty wind against tide situation. After a couple of big bounces we, and quite a few others, tacked off up Channel and waited for the promised wind shift to the South. The shift was later than we had hoped so we had to tack in to the finish and after 23hours and having sailed 165 miles we finished 8th in Class out of 33.

The forecast was for a SW Gale and by turning round and running straight back we thought we could make it into Haslar in time. We flew across in 20 kts on the beam but did get caught by Force 7 at the east end of the Isle of Wight, however the island meant the sea state wasn’t too bad and we sailed into Portsmouth in time to have a couple of pints; 90 miles in 11 hours we deserved them.

Next day was an easy sail back down to Lymington clocking up a total of 285NM in the long weekend.

The next qualifier is the 230 NM Eddystone race at the end of May and it is notorious for either too much or not enough breeze. Several years ago it is also where we achieved Wild Spirits speed record of 16.4 kts through the water with 48 kts of wind behind us. I hope for a bit less this year, NW 5 would be great.

Nab Bouncer

The race round Nab Tower saw 30 kts of apparent against a spring tide resulting in some short steep waves and one competitor breaking a mast. Just the sort of conditions where we can look good and we finished 4th out of 18 in a very competitive class and 12th out of 64 overall.

Caribbean Bound

After this years success I will be skippering Spirit of Juno again for the Caribbean 600 race in February 2016. 6 places have gone already and we have a maximum of 16 in the team. See racing page for more details.

A breezy weekend

The last race training weekend at the end of March gave us a gale in the Solent. We seized this opportunity to use the Trysail and Storm Jib to run up to Cowes before returning under 3 reefs. We hit 40 kts of breeze and had regular periods in the top 30s but WS handled well and all the team gained experience of helming in interesting conditions.

March Update

The Fastnet team is full and training is underway, we will have individual places on most races as someone nearly always has to drop out due to work etc. Both Round the island race teams are full and we already have bookings for the 2016 Caribbean 600. RYA courses have been slower selling and there is over capacity with some people doing things I think are ‘cutting corners’. We will stick to ‘if a jobs worth doing, it’s worth doing properly’. The second race training weekend went well and the next is on 27th March followed by the Cherbourg race at Easter.

Caribbean 600

Caribbean 600 2015

JC started it all. “I want to do the Caribbean 600 for my 50th birthday”. He is a regular Wild Spirit race team member with Fastnets and Round Ireland’s with us so I thought about it. The logical step was to do it on another yacht in 2014 before putting a package together; along came a 55 foot classic Swan wanting a watch leader/ safety officer, so off I went. Then having selflessly spent 10 days in the Caribbean racing plus researching, we put together a package with On Deck for 65 footer, Spirit of Juno a former Round the World racing yacht. Why such a big beast? Quite simple really, most of the team think they will only do one C600 so, as in the Sydney Hobart, we go for a yacht with the highest probability of finishing if the weather gets bad. The other thing is to find people who can make things happen in the notoriously laid back culture of the Caribbean and On Deck can do this as they are there all year round, whereas the rest are just passing trade. This might seem a small thing but when you need a sail repairing the day before the race it really matters.

Having ‘done the deal’ with On Deck dates were important as the Virgin Flights on Tuesday’s were cheaper than the rest, so 2 weeks it was, and then of course the WAGS decided they would come and have a holiday. So as I type this I overlook the Pool and across the Bay towards Juno as she lies alongside next to the Yacht Club where the superb prize giving party was held last night.

Arriving from a cold, wet UK to 27C of Antiguan sunshine is always a pleasant start and those staying on board went to Juno, whilst I did some shopping, followed by trying to find where I was staying, in a remote house, on a very dark Island, with extremely limited road signs. On Deck had sent a Mini Bus for the on-boarders and I think next year I will be on it even if I then pick up the Hire Car by the boat.

Wednesday morning was handover and in the afternoon we started training. This was the first time I had sailed a Farr 65 and was immediately impressed by how easily she handled. The team were impressed by the on board accommodation which was really good for our limit of 16. The wind blew steadily from the East at 20 Kts and we tried the Genoas and main, practiced tacking etc but only really had the opportunity to fly the kite once. The second new kite stayed in its bag though we did wool it up before the start.

By the time we finished training on Saturday the wind was still 20 kts and forecast for 25 at the start on Monday. Great for us and we enjoyed the party on Saturday night. Sunday had very sensibly been scheduled as a rest and recovery day.

The C600 is less than 10 years old but at the current rate of growth it will probably be bigger than the Sydney Hobart in 5 years’ time. The start is under Shirley Heights with its commanding view of the entrance to Nelson’s dockyard. The sun shone, the wind blew and the helicopter hovered overhead taking pictures. We crossed the line at 10 kts almost taking out a spectator boat before tacking onto the first leg North past Barbuda. Juno handled beautifully in the big . . . → Read More: Caribbean 600

The Maltese Pirate

The Maltese Pirate.

This is a work of fiction and any names of real people and yachts have been changed to protect the innocent etc.

The old Pirate sat in the thin October sunshine musing on the past. Other than refusing his first offer of Mount Gay, because he did not know it was rum, he had few regrets. He was already booked for the Sydney Hobart and Caribbean 600; he had sailed many seas but wondered what fresh challenges might still await him.

An e-mail alert flashed at the foot of the screen and he opened it. An invitation to join a team for the Middle Sea race on an old Cygnet with all grog and rations provided. He picked up the phone and called Vlad whose company was sponsoring the yacht; other experienced racing sailors would be on board. All they wanted was his experience and helming, it all seemed simple, so as he was also simple, he agreed.

Arriving at the Marina of the 5 star Hotel to join Vlad and his team he had some difficulty finding Polarison, mainly as she hadn’t arrived. Vlad and his team were in the Club across the bay so after negotiating a berth for the night on another yacht he went in search of the team. Always just 5 minutes behind their last move he encountered the Maltese Knight who had joined the team to provide local knowledge.

The next day he found Vlad and the Impalers and heard reports that a sail had been seen off Gozo and Polarison would arrive that afternoon. The sail maker and the trimmer arrived, both experienced, English speaking, racing sailors and the old Pirate relaxed in the warm Maltese sun shine and marvelled at the ancient fortifications. True to his word Vlad provided all Food and Grog.

Knowing the ways of the sea and the joys of delivering yachts shorthanded the old Pirate awoke before first light to find Polarison just arriving. He set to work with their crew immediately for he knew that there was a coastal race that day and there was much to be done before the start. Vlad and the impalers went for a long breakfast and boarded just before it would have been too late to make passage for the start.

Having worked in Moscow the Old pirate expected some cultural differences. It became clear that Vlad thought he had chartered Polarison with owners representatives and he would be skipper whereas the company thought they had sold a skippered charter and had put on board Skippy and young Harry (for he was too young to shave and had 2 strange lumps as well which meant for Vlad’s team only suited for work in the galley).

Running his fingers through his grey beard the old Pirate kept his own counsel as he watched the battle for control of Polarison develop. The situation was not helped by another young Pirate from the company doing the tactics at the start resulting in Polarison being several minutes late starting, plus Skippy and young Harry were very tired. Despite all this, Polarison clawed its way to the middle of the fleet. The old Pirate marvelled at the finish, he had seen ships with 2 wheels and witnessed people try and pull them in different directions but he had never before seen 2 people on the same wheel pulling as hard as they could in different directions.

Ashore the animated discussions continued and now involved the owner of the company, the old Pirate watched then went for a swim to consider whether . . . → Read More: The Maltese Pirate

Middle Sea Race

I am now back from the Middle Sea Race. More than half the fleet retired due to the extreme weather. In our case Backstay failure was a major factor. A race report will follow soon but may have to be carefully written due to a dispute between the Team Organiser and Charter Company — nothing to do with Wild Spirit, I was invited to helm for international team.

A couple of places left in next year’s Fastnet team, plus several for Caribbean 600 in February — see racing pages.

I am off to Australia in December for Sydney Hobart and we have little planned on Wild Spirit until training starts in February but if you want to use her or go sailing give me a call and we will see what we can do–I know a lot of people in sailing.

Paul Jackson